By Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer
The holidays are a hectic time of year. So many people, so many gifts, and so little time and money! Here are 11 healthy and affordable gift ideas that will help ease a little bit of the burden. Many of these gifts are great projects for kids, too, and you're certain to find an idea for everyone on your list!
With a balance of carbs, fat, and protein, trail mix is a great snack. Store-bought versions can be pricy, but creating a custom mix is easy and affordable. Buy nuts, dried fruit and cereal from the bulk bins at your supermarket to cut down on cost. Package it in a pretty jar (such as repurposed glass spaghetti sauce jars) with a ribbon. To do it, combine 2 cups grains, 1/3 cup dried fruit, 1/3 cup nuts or seeds, and 1/3 cup of sweets (optional) of your choice. For ideas, try one of these SparkRecipes for trail mix.
After a long, tough workout, soaking in a hot bath with some Epsom salts can help reduce inflammation. You can buy expensive aromatherapy bath salts at department stores, but why shell out cash for something you can make at home? This gift is great for anyone who needs to learn to take time to relax or for someone who has already mastered that skill. To do it, mix 6 cups Epsom salt, 2 cups table salt and 4 cups baking soda together in a large bowl, then add essential oils (such as peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus or and/or chamomile) until the scent of the salts reaches the desired strength. Mix well with a spoon, then place salts in glass jars with tight-fitting lids. Print a custom label for your fancy bath salts (optional).
You might say that chocolate isn't a "healthy" gift. We disagree. Everything is fine in moderation, and dark chocolate (at least 70%) contains antioxidants. We love these chocolate spoons because they're easy to make and are instantly portion controlled. To do it, pick up 10 spoons (such as mismatched ones from a thrift store). Melt 1 cup semisweet or dark chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Dip clean, dry spoons into the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to cool slightly, and then dip them in chocolate again until chocolate reaches desired thickness on the spoon. While still warm, add your favorite "extras" (optional), such as crushed peppermint candy, melted white chocolate, sprinkles or shredded coconut. Place spoons in fridge to set. Once firm and cool, wrap each one in plastic wrap and tie with a ribbon. Voila!
When you're learning how to lead a healthy lifestyle, you often have to relearn how to do simple domestic tasks like shopping and cooking. Ease the process for someone else by compiling a recipe binder. To do it, snip healthy recipes from magazines, write down your favorite recipes and print some of the top-rated SparkRecipes. Put them in a three-ring binder and decorate the cover (optional), using dividers to organize them. This recipe book can easily be expanded to accommodate additional healthy recipes. If you're including family recipes, write down memories associated with that recipe or the story of how it came to be a family favorite.
In the middle of winter, when the mercury's dropping and the snow is piling up outside, is there anything more comforting than a bowl of oatmeal? Plain old oatmeal becomes a tedious breakfast rather quickly, but the fancy flavored versions are full of added sugars. Thankfully, making your own gourmet oatmeal is easy. Flavored oatmeal makes a great gift for the busy professional, a time-strapped mom or anyone who says there's no time for a healthy breakfast. You can buy these ingredients from the bulk bins at the grocery store to save more money. To do it, find an oatmeal mix recipe (or create your own) and assemble according to recipe instructions. Divide the oatmeal mix into single servings or deliver the gift in a decorative cookie jar.
Songs can make or break a workout. The right song can get you in the "zone" and help ease you past a plateau. Other songs can help us de-stress, relax, or conjure up some of the best memories of our lives. Mix CDs (the updated version of a mix tape) make great, personal gifts and only cost a few cents apiece. To do it, choose about a dozen of your favorite songs (or titles that are meaningful to your loved one). Download the mp3s and burn them onto a CD. Be sure to include "liner notes" with the singer and name of each song, as well as any other personal touches about what the song might mean to you.
After a long, hard day at work, school, or home with the kids, who has the time, energy or interest in standing over the stove for an hour? Ease the burden for a busy friend or family member with a ready-to-eat meal. To do it, choose a recipe that your loved one will like that also freezes well. Maybe it's your famous chicken and dumplings, lasagna or bean burritos. Casseroles, stews and soups work well, too. Whatever it is, make up a batch of it, then pack it in single portions or a family-size container. Keep the meal in the freezer until it's time to exchange gifts. Your gift will melt the recipient's heart!
This handy low-tech gadget can help ease a headache, sooth sore knees, loosen a tight lower back and even warm cold feet. Have a friend who constantly battles aches and pains? Make one of these as a holiday gift! To do it, buy a new sock or, if you're especially handy, sew a long, thin tube for your rice sock. Fill the sock with 1-2 pounds of rice and a few drops of essential oil (optional), then sew the top shut or use a ribbon to tightly tie the sock closed. Include a typed or handwritten note that explains to put it in the microwave until it's hot, then place it on the aching body part.
Know another chocolate lover? Surprise him or her with these hearty pretzels. Pretzels are a low-calorie snack, and when dunked in chocolate, they feel like an indulgence (for just 167 calories and 5 grams of fat each)! To do it, follow this simple recipe (all you need are pretzels and some chocolate chips), and then package your finished pretzels in plastic wrap or cellophane with a ribbon.
Herbs and spices add flavor and pizzazz to your cooking with little to no calories and fat. Consider mixing your own herbs and spices and giving them as gifts to your favorite cook. To do it, save small jelly jars or buy empty spice jars at a kitchen goods store. Choose your recipe blend, such as pumpkin pie spice, Italian herb seasoning or taco seasoning. Buy herbs in bulk at a natural foods store (only purchase as much as you need). Grind spice blends in blender/spice grinder briefly before placing in jars. Include the "recipe" for the spice mix on an index card, and be sure to include some tips on how to use the spice blends.
A vision collage is a collection of photos, magazine pages, words, or anything else that you can use to help visualize your goals and dreams. You can make a vision collage for someone else as a personal gift. If your best friend is working hard to quit smoking, make her a collage with a photo of the two of you, motivational quotes, a list of activities she can do to distract herself from smoking, and maybe a mantra she can repeat to herself when she's having a tough day. Is your partner trying to find motivation to work out? Find a favorite photo of yourselves from your younger days and add a list of reasons why you love him no matter what. To do it, grab a few favorite photos, some old magazines, a couple of mementos and a nice piece of paper or poster board. Cut, glue and create your collage—there are no rules! On your collage is finished, frame it as a gift.
You will earn 5 SparkPoints